I headed down to Hollister this morning not knowing what I'd do with Jim. Now out of the hospital and flying again, I wasn't sure if he'd want to get me in a 2-32 to practice some more stuff or if we'd fly the ASK-21. He mentioned doing both in the last few weeks.

Flight #1: Break a rope

He suggested we take up glider 64E (one of the 2-32s) to work on more advanced tow tasks. On the first flight, I boxed the wake once we got above 2,000 feet and did a damned fine job of it. :-)

After that, we spent the rest of the flight working with slack line recovery. There are a variety of ways you can end up with slack in the tow rope but they all boil down to two causes: either pilot error or turbulence. Since it was a calm day and we were training, Jim would force slack in various ways so I could practice recovery. It went pretty well. We did slack in steering turns with standard recovery. Then we tried recovery using the air brakes a few times. On the last attempt, I got behind the towplane with little too much slack in the line and broke it (the rope).

Amusingly, Jim wasn't expecting to break but I was. I remembered how nasty the rope looked when we inspected it earlier. So when I saw the slack coming out, I thought to myself "uh oh..." and looked at the altimeter. We were at 4,800 feet, so all I did was turn from the towplane and fly the glider. Heh. There's a first time for everything, and with slack line training this can happen.

After our "release" we worked on speed changes. Starting with 50mph, I'd increase the glider's speed in 5mph increments until 90mph, testing the controls at each stop to get a feel for how the response changes.

With that out of the way, Jim had me cover the altimeter and airspeed indicator for the remainder of the flight (to simulate a failure of the instruments). He then demonstrated benign sprial mode, a technique used to get the glider down without traveling very far or going very fast. It's not something you do very often, but it's a good maneuver to know if you ever get trapped above the clouds and would like to get below them with the least chance of hitting something and killing yourself.

We lost a fair amount of alitutde flying fast during the speed changes and then in the spiral, so I headed toward the airport to land without any instruments. I flew the pattern a bit fast (or so I'm told) but otherwise the landing was decent.

Flight #2: Unusual Attitudes

We launched for our second flight off runway 31 and began to practice "unusual attitudes" on tow. That meant three different situations I had to recover from after Jim purposely did bad things to the glider. First, he'd put the glider in a steep bank away from the towplane and give me the controls. I'd correct it by unbanking and rolling back the other way for a bit. Once level, I'd let slack out of the rope and drift back behind the towplane. The next situation was a climb. Jim would put the nose up and then give me the controls. I'd put the nose forward to dive and then level us, work out the slack, and get back in position. The final situation was a dive. He'd put the nose down for a few seconds before giving me the glider. I'd pull up to level, work out the slack, and get back in position.

Having managed not to break the rope, we released at 5,000 feet. We praticed some 720 degree turns and then worked on benign spiral mode again. This time Jim put the nose pretty high before we entered. In benign spiral mode, I open the airbrakes all the way and let go of all the other controls. It's basically a hands-off maneuver except for the brake control. I had to use every ounce of self-control to keep myself from touching the controls when Jim put the nose high in a turn and told me to pull the brakes and let go of the controls. I really, really wanted to fix the situation but didn't. I had to just trust that the glider would do the right thing. It did.

We played around a bit more and I headed back to the airport. This time, when I opened the airbrakes on my crosswind leg to test them, Jim held them open and announced "your brakes are stuck open... what are you going to do?" Well, in the 2-32, you fall like a rock when the brakes are open like that. So I decided to land on runway 13 (a downwind landing on 31 is another way to look at it). After 10 seconds I told him that I wasn't sure if we'd make it and I wasn't sure where to aim. I'm really not used to flying with the brakes open and the nose that far down. He suggested that I just get to the runway and then turn parallel to it. I did that. When we got close, he put the brakes back in a bit so that we'd have enough altitude to safely turn and land.

Back on the ground, we discussed airbrake failures and full-brake landings a bit. Then he asked I wanted to go back up solo, and I said yes (of course).

Flights #3 and #4: Slow speed turns and the pesky ultralight

I flew two solo flights to 5,000 feet. During both of them I spent most of my time flying between 50 and 60mph so that I could get better and keeping a constant speed in slow turns. It's harder than it seems at first. I kept over-controlling and had to stop trying to hard.

As it was appraching (or past) noon, the air started to get bumpy around 2,200 feet. The thermals were starting to warm up. I attempted to find lift and caught a few 100fpm pockets but quickly lost them.

While I was up on flight #3, I heard a lot of radio talk. It was a clear day so I was picking up calls from at least four different airports. Most of the Hollister calls were coming from an ultralight that was flying left closed traffic off runway 31 over and over and over. He flew pretty slow but his patterns were also quite short. It seemed like he was back on the ranway every 4-5 minutes. I was wondering if he was ever going to stop. When I entered the pattern and called my position on crosswind, he asked if he had enough time to land. That cracked me up, since he was on downwind and almost ready to turn base. I told him that he had several minutes so it was no problem.

My first landing was pretty good except for the bounce. But at least I bounced on the centerline. :-)

My second landing was more interesting. What I didn't know is that while I was up on flight #4, the winds were increasing. It was no longer calm at the surface. There was a 5-10mph head/crosswind on runway 31. But I didn't look closely enough at the windsock to notice that. So I was surprised when I found myself low over the runway. I had thought I'd hit my aim point perfectly. Instead I found myself low and slowing down. I put the brakes in and the nose down to gain some airspeed. It helped but not much. At that point I figured there must be wind but wasn't sure. When I was 2-3 feet above the runway and perfectly on centerline, I found myself blowing to the left. Ugh. Rather than try to correct that low, I let the glider down a bit early and just coasted a bit longer on the ground. When I did get a chance to look at the windsock again, it explained everything.

Next up

Jim gave me a 10-day solo signoff, so I'll probably fly a 2-32 for a few hours this weekend. Then he and I will meet again next Thursday, but later in the day. We're hoping to find some crosswind for me to practice in. I need crosswind practice.

Posted by jzawodn at February 06, 2003 05:04 PM

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